From his first-floor office, Douglas Tursman heard a pistol shot echoing off the several-story atrium in Building 197.
"Instinctively, I knew it was a pistol shot. My mind told me, 'The sound of a pistol does not belong here in this office.' So I dismissed it."
Within a minute, two more shots rang out, and Mr. Tursman realized something horrible was happening.
He was one among thousands of workers at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning hearing the unthinkable play out: a shooting that left 13, including the gunman, dead.
Three shots in, someone pulled the fire alarm, prompting evacuation of the building.
"Pulling the alarm was an excellent thing. I don't know who did it, but it set everything into motion," said Mr. Tursman, 59, a logistics manager at Naval Sea Systems Command, who lives in Takoma Park, Md.
In the following hours, workers would be ushered to and from safe spaces, updated by police and interviewed by authorities.
Following well-practiced fire alarm protocols, hundreds gathered outside near the Anacostia River, many oblivious to the shooting in their workplace. Moved quickly from the outside space, the workers were locked down in building across the street from 197. They were then transferred to the nearby U.S. Navy Museum, where authorities updated the group.
After being interviewed by the FBI at a separate conference center, the group was bused to Nationals Park, where relatives could pick up their loved ones.
While in the museum, the group was told there had been a shooter in the building.
Mr. Tursman said he was "blessed by ignorance. I would have high-tailed it [out of there] a lot faster." Instead, he said, the evacuation was orderly.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he had worked in an office near the Capitol Building, from where he could see smoke rising from the Pentagon.
Then, like Monday, he said, no one panicked. Everyone did what they were supposed to do, he said.
"I think the police, the [military police] and the guards did very well at the Navy Yard," Mr. Tursman said. "They had the situation well in hand, as far as we employees were concerned."
The Associated Press contributed. Lexi Belculfine: email@example.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published September 17, 2013 4:15 AM